Truman Capote is a very charismatic person; one who would say or do anything to win the hearts and minds of his audience. Capote cleverly manipulates people into revealing personal and poignant facts to him by revealing something personal and poignant about himself. He becomes an omnipotent character in the book he writes, a character that he never writes about in his book. He purposely takes himself out of the story, never mentions his involvement or his relationships. Capote deceives and manipulates everyone, from the police to the residents of Holcomb and Garden City and ultimately Perry Smith the convicted murderer, in order to gather tidbits of information to use as ammunition to write his book.
Capote’s attachment to Perry haunts him as he comes to realize that he shares the same kind of devastating childhood experiences with Perry. This becomes evident when Capote responds when Nelle Harper Lee questions him about his relationship with Perry: “It’s as if Perry and I started life in the same house, One day he stood up and walked out the back door while I walked out the front” (Futterman 69). Capote believes he could have become Perry if he had made the same choices that Perry made, and he sees himself in Perry. The fact of the matter is that Capote chose a different path, which leads me to believe that his obsession with Perry and his choices led to his creative and psychological destruction. Capote begins to manipulate himself into believing that he and Perry are alike and becomes emotionally attached to him.
The attention and affection that Capote desperately needed but that was denied to him by his mother haunted him. He saw the same ghosts in Perry that he felt inside himself. The lack of affection and attention from his mother deformed his personality, which became a powerful force behind his peculiarity. This unmet need for attention and affection forced him to satisfy it any way he could and he did so through his writings and his unusual behavior. It seems it was an addiction for him to receive attention from everyone good, bad or indifferent. I believe he enjoyed the challenge of manipulating people and forcing them to deal with him.
Even though Capote identifies with Perry, he further manipulates him to get the details he requires to finish his book. I think that there were two opposite but equal emotions that were at work inside of him. Capote reveals these emotions to Nelle Harper Lee at the end of her visit in Spain when he says, “Jack says I am using Perry, but he also thinks I fell in love with him when I was in Kansas. How both of those things can be true is beyond me” (Futterman 69). I think that Capote was using Perry but eventually empathized with him and began to see himself in Perry and wanted Perry to live. However, I think the manipulative and peculiar force inside Capote wanted to see Perry hang so he could finish his book and get the praise and attention that he desireed from his mother but received from his audience.
Capote’s decitful and manipulative view of the world dictated the last words spoken to Perry. Moments before Perry was executed with tears streaming down his face Capote squeeks, “I did everything I could…I truly did” (Futterman 104, 105). Capote persuades himself at this moment, actually convinced that he did everything he could to save Perry but knowing that he did not. I think what finally broke Capote was seeing Perry hang. It would be devastating to watch a person hang even if they knew them or not. I think what Capote saw when the floor of the Gallows dropped under Perrys feet was the death of himself. The conflicting emotions raging inside of him corrupted his soul and led him to Alcholoism and eventually to his death.
Futterman, Dan. Capote. New York: NewMarket Press, 2006.